Englishman braves cold on trek down Mississippi River
A lot of people paddle the Mississippi River for charity and adventure, but few do it with icicles hanging off their canoe.
Kevin Brady, 30, of Gloucester, England, is doing just that this winter, in an effort to raise money for the children’s ward at his hometown’s hospital through the Pied Piper Appeal charity. The money will go for services and equipment at the hospital.
Brady started Sept. 15 at the headwaters of the great river in Minnesota and plans to paddle his 17-foot, aluminum canoe all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. He admits it hasn’t been easy.
“The first day I dragged the canoe more than I paddled,” Brady said in his Mick Jagger accent on Monday, Nov. 25, while nursing an ailing back in Louisiana.
The second day found him in a meandering stream with reeds as far as he could see and nowhere to camp. He finally found a spot after the fog rolled in and felt lucky.
A short time later, his back flared up and he spent two weeks getting chiropractic treatment. He didn’t get to Minneapolis until day 40 and he arrived with a severe case of the blues.
“I had been paddling 10 to 14 hours a day,” Brady said. “It was loneliness and I realized I needed to deal with it.”
While camped on an island shortly thereafter, Brady found a tennis ball.
“I needed a Wilson like Tom Hanks had in ‘Castaway,’ ” Brady said. “He’s been my mate and ever since that day I’ve been mentally strong.”
People have offered to tow Brady or have him join their paddling group but he had refused the offers.
“I want to continue to do it solo, source to sea,” he said.
Brady has been doing a lot of paddling at night to stay out of the day’s winds and avoid barges better.
“In the day the barges creep up on you, they’re so quiet,” Brady said. “At night you can see the spotlights,” and get out of the way quicker.
“I knew it was going to get a bit chilly but I didn’t know it would get this cold,” Brady said. “A couple of days ago I had icicles hanging off the side of the canoe. It was horrendous.”
One thing Brady has found along the way is great river people.
“I’ve been taken in by people just as much as I’ve camped,” he said. “People take me in and then they phone ahead to others” down river to keep their eye out for him.
“I’ve already got a place to stay in Alton and St. Louis and I hope it will domino from there. People have just been phenomenal. I’ve been amazed.”
His contact in St. Louis, “Big Muddy Mike,” has done the headwaters to gulf trip twice.
“He says if this was easy, everybody would do it,” Brady said.
“When I’m out there for 12 hours a day, putting up with the elements is far more draining than the actual paddling. The wind is the killer.”
Brady said there are three main reasons why he is paddling the Mississippi River.
“I’m raising money for sick children,” is first.
Second, he wanted to add the Mississippi to his list of conquests after backpacking all over the world.
“There is no river quite as large as this in Europe,” Brady said.
Third is “the adventure of it all, not knowing what’s around the next bend or where you’re going to sleep that night.
“I’m getting out of my comfort zone to become a better person. I’m not an indoors person. I’m seeing the real country and the real world.”
To learn more about Brady’s adventure or donate to his cause, visit his website at http://www.justgiving.com/paddlekevbrady.